Google Penalizes Blog Networks, Did SEOs Use It To Hurt Competitors?

Mar 27, 2012 • 8:58 am | comments (56) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Link Spam CaughtAs I reported at Search Engine Land, Google has caught another blog network in action after that blog network worked magic for a long long time. Those sites and webmasters who participated in that network reaped the benefits of good rankings and now find themselves penalized and some deindexed by Google completely. confirmed they were hit and is offering refunds to customers. There are rumors that other networks have also been hit but none of come out saying so, outside of What is funny is that they said, "in our wildest dreams, there’s no way we could have imagined this happening." And I am thinking, wow - people really think this will work in the long run?

When I posted this on my Google+ page I received a lot of questions on what is to stop someone from doing this to their competitor? Add them to a link network and them bam - good bye? Google says it is rare for links to hurt you if done by a third party - but anything is possible.

Which is why Google probably offers

@danthies ah, glad you noticed that. Good to see at… that it's on peoples' radar that they're on our radar. :)

— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) March 15, 2012

So which other networks were hit? Which will be hit in the future? Have you used this method to try to get short term gains and then sell it off? Have you used this method to try to hurt competitors?

Forum discussion at My Google+, SEL's Google+, HighRankings Forums, Warrior Forums and Traffic Planet Forums.

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03/27/2012 01:03 pm

I've just discovered th new SEO tool Colibri can track your website position on Google and find or even suggest your competition-it also monitors Twitter, Facebook mentions, Google rank and backlinks to you website!

Peter Nigel

03/27/2012 01:14 pm

Several people have mentioned on forums that they have switched link distribution to competitors after they noticed drops in rankings. Actually there have been people actively trying to get accounts in penalized networks. Now that's mad, isn't it?


03/27/2012 01:23 pm

It's quite scary to see the number of sites actively promoting BMR / ALN for negative SEO purposes now. It looks like "private blog networks" have had their moment, although some are still alive, they seem to be getting hit as we speak.

Nick Stamoulis

03/27/2012 01:50 pm

"in our wildest dreams, there’s no way we could have imagined this happening." I have to agree with you on that one, really? Google has made no secret of their attempts to clean up the search results by penalizing sites involved in content and links farms. Even if some sites have escaped thus far, it's really only a matter of time. 

Stockbridge Truslow

03/27/2012 01:51 pm

I just don't see SEO companies using this as a tactic to hurt competitors. If you are going to consider a tactic like this in the first place, then you don't see (or care about) the long-term picture. As you said in your post, the people who used this "reaped the benefits" for some time before the penalty. Any "quick fix" minded SEO isn't going to consider putting a competitor ahead of them even for a few days in order to push them down at a random/arbitrary point in the possible future. I CAN see an SEO company suggesting doing this in hopes that OTHER SEO companies take up the practice and thus, when the hit comes, it affects "everyone". So, "To stop someone from doing it to their competitor" in a race for the top of the SERPS environment, the very nature of the process itself will stop it from happening. To stop other SEO companies from encouraging other SEO companies to hop into the same boat so everyone sinks or everyone floats - well, that's a bit counter intuitive too.


03/27/2012 02:05 pm

 Have we seen any evidence that sites were actually penalized for using these tactics? Or have they just had the benefit of those links removed (thus causing a drop in the rankings, but not from a penalty). Since the networks are deindexed, the links on them shouldn't benefit or hurt anyone. It would seem that putting something on a site that Google doesn't index isn't a great idea for help or hurt someone.

EDM Machines

03/27/2012 03:46 pm

I can't see an SEO going after competitors. What's the point? To try and undo the work they have put in seems like more work than just trying to help your client's website. If Google is on the look out, and they have been anyway, SEOs should just keep their noses clean and help their own clients. If it got out that you were using sabotage as a method, who would want to work with you? 


03/27/2012 05:28 pm

Its funny that you wonder why people still do this. BMR was in a hay-day for almost 2 years, and I know many MANY people who were making $5,000 to $10,000 per month on the side using it. Its interesting to watch the arguments between proclaimed white-hatters and black-hatters. Everyone in the white-hat world is 99% of the time either a blog columnist or a corporate SEO who has to come up with answers for their executives.  Meanwhile all the black or gray hatters are gaming the system and making thousands if not millions. If I told you you could use BMR and maybe 4 or 5 other blog networks to rank a site top 3 for some competitive terms which in turn would make you $10k per month extra income, you'd be hard pressed to convince me you wouldn't do that. And the risk? What your affiliate site gets penalized and you move on... BTW if using BMR gets you flagged by the 'unnatural links message' and if the unnatural links message gets you a penalty, then there is absolutely no reason why your competitor wouldn't spend $500 to get you an account, and 200 articles pointing at your site. "but wait, what if I submit for re-inclusion and I tell Google it was my competitor trying to get me penalized?!?' yea right - ask that to Matt Cutts at SMX Advanced and see what he says.

Matias Coo

03/27/2012 06:02 pm

I would imagine that if your keyword competition level is high, there will be some companies out there that will use any means such as negative seo to gain advantage. However, I think it's a better use of time to focus on your own website, rather than sabotaging your competitors. 


03/27/2012 06:07 pm

if the difference between #3 and #5 is an income of $300 to $800 per day to the bottom line I think you'd find the time.

Shane Eubanks

03/27/2012 06:18 pm

My thoughts swirled around the same issue last year during the JC Penney ordeal. I won't rehash what I wrote, but I posted my thoughts about "blacker than black hat" over at:  It basically comes down saying links should just get devalued rather than sites (that are being linked to) getting penalized. This would keep people from even thinking about paying for spammy links to point at a competitor. Just imagine what search would look like if no value was given to links from blog comments, forum profiles, poorly spun articles that make no sense, etc. I personally see Google moving more and more towards that.

Shalu Sharma

03/27/2012 09:02 pm

To be honest, there is no substitute for quality content. White hat SEO methods always pays. That is why networks never pays. Always do the right way, which is articles, good content, and all that. 


03/27/2012 10:03 pm

I have been using a network that hasn't yet been hit for some time now. I've been using it pretty lightly, however for those websites where I have been using it I am now also building links to 2-3 competitors per site. If we go down, I'm NOT going to be alone. Might seem evil, but hey - it's Google's call. They know this can and will happen.

Gareth Mailer

03/27/2012 11:21 pm

I'm really sick of hearing people go on about "quality content". To be perfectly honest, try telling that to a small business owner trying to make headway in a local niche which is swamped by large chains owing mainly to domain authority. Try telling that to the local appliance repair specialist who wants to expand his business - "just write a 1,000 word post on washing machine repair".  It won't work. Not now, not ever. Google simply isn't intelligent enough yet to separate the wheat from the chaff - they've become very capable at spotting the chaff and doing away with it, but what of the wheat? How many small to medium sized businesses do you know which compete in their niche on quality content alone? There's limited space on the first page of results, which means if there are big players around then you may as well forget it.  I love the idea of quality content, I love the idea that Google would order results based on quality alone, but there's only so much you can write about a washing machine; so, what else is going to happen based on Google's model? I presume user's are going to link to the best appliance repair website organically? No, they are going to link to the one that has the biggest marketing budget.  Google's whole position of self-righteousness annoys me a little bit too - they say we shouldn't manipulate search results, they say that they want to provide the best possible experience to users, but yet look at all the instances where they demonstrate the exception - their entire business model is based on giving position to the top bidder (of course, there's more to Ad Words than that, but you get the gist). 

Richard Wong

03/28/2012 12:42 am

Trying to buy for a competitor is like playing Russian roulette though, because what if it helps them? You're better off focusing on your own business than worry about what your competitor is or isn't doing.

Ricky Shah

03/28/2012 02:02 am

I would rather be happy to see all the sites, who were leveraging the advantage of network, going down. This will help to curb spammers.


03/28/2012 08:10 am

"As we mention from time to time, there is almost nothing a competitor can do to harm a good site's ranking." What if a good site dabbled in network blogs, but then saw the error of their ways and stopped? Would that site then be suceptible to a competitor increasing the amount of links from blog networks?

android Spy soft

03/28/2012 08:11 am

Well if you are doing white hat SEO. You are publishing only unique and quality content and you are making quality back links, and you are running a network in this way. I don''t think there is anything wrong in it. If you are using black hat techniques to promote your network and to gain good ranking, then such networks should be punished.


03/28/2012 10:06 am

There is a lot of talk even test I know of going on with negative seo and OOP anchor being thrown at competitors. Please note what mattcutss said here "As we mention from time to time, there is almost nothing a competitor can do to harm a good site's ranking." Notice the word almost?


03/28/2012 10:15 am

Hi mattt there is so many sites like this  : they are helping others to crush their compettitors, I even saw ads in the forums and backpage.  its possible .  dont say "NO". I know its hard to take down high authorative sites (Big Brands), but what about SMB's ??


03/28/2012 10:20 am

 Google become a  big brand protector, they dont care Small and medium business. unlike big brands SMB sites dont have that much authoritives that means anyone can take them down with negative SEO. Matt Admit it "Google spam team heading to wrong direction".

Barry Schwartz

03/28/2012 10:21 am

The Matt Cutts commenting here is not the real Matt Cutts.  It is someone trying to give me and him a hard time.


03/28/2012 10:31 am

Blogging Underground also fell on the 23rh. From what I read on their forums, only around 30 PR 0 domains survived.

Vitaliy Radovanski

03/28/2012 10:45 am

Google has been analyzing numerous metrics to distinguish natural and artificial links. For SEOs it's not about "paid links won't work anymore" - it's about "don't let Google know this paid link as a paid one" - there are not so many SEOs who realize this fact and care about it however.

SEM Media

03/28/2012 11:23 am

Guyz, Cross your's fingers up! Google is going to do an major update. Hope we are not one of them going to hit by google

Barry Schwartz

03/28/2012 11:43 am

That is not Matt Cutts. Someone is pretending to be him. Trying to delete the comments.

Barry Schwartz

03/28/2012 11:44 am

That is not Matt Cutts. Someone is faking him like crazy here.

Marcus Miller

03/28/2012 11:52 am

The whole 'hurting your competitor' thing is interesting but I can't honestly see that as a workable strategy to affect the competition.  Really, there are lots of signals that you are a spammy site, links from one type of blog network are only one signal and maybe Google has a set of criteria that if you tick enough boxes then you feel the wrath.  Whilst getting links from an identified network may put you under the microscope, if you do everything else right, then there are a whole lot of better things to be worrying about than whether your competitors are building potentially harmful links to your site. 


03/28/2012 12:36 pm

yeah but matt cutts/google did say this word "almost" I think it was in some vid a month or 2 back.

Jayson Gopi

03/28/2012 01:15 pm

OMG that horrible, so it means that Google gonna penalize all the blog network? 

Robert Lawrence

03/28/2012 01:18 pm

Of course you can hurt you competitor using this method. If they are going to penalize the method, they will not be able to determine the source. Often it is the SEO company doing the work and the client is none the wiser.  I would love to know any signal that can definitively determine the source of the participation.  Short of the company sharing their data, it isn't possible.  F' your neighbor has been around for a long time. Google has done a decent job with it to this point, but when you start weighting things that can hurt a site more than you weight things that can help a site, you have officially started down the slippery slope! 

Refik Pakistani

03/28/2012 01:50 pm

I read video too. Y Mr Schwartz delete comment from Mr Cutts

Voice of Sanity

03/28/2012 02:17 pm

Where is the proof that Google is passing NEGATIVE link juice?  This is a constant rumor on many forums I am SOOO sick of hearing.  It would be a huge mistake for Google to pass negative link juice.  If this were true, you would end up with a HUGE NEGATIVE SEO INDUSTRY.  This would end up greatly diminishing the quality of Google SERPS with people constantly trying to get other people penalized.  Now if you site is the site getting penalized (you are the Blog or a site using Black Hat techniques) that is a different story.  Your site CAN get penalized or deindexed.  All that is happening to sites receiving the link is they are loosing the link juice they had gotten use to.   Here's what typically happens, a site has build most its rank on artificial links and that rank has lasted a long time.  So long that they have no record or accurate memory of where their site ranked a long time ago, before they started building links and hiring SEOs.  Then Panda hits and their SERP falls greatly.  They equate this to Google "penalizing" them for their backlinks when all that is really happening is their SERP is simply falling back to where it would have been had they not built all those artificial links.   The problem is Google's algo is not always going to be perfect and frankly site owners really have no control over who links to them and how. So in many cases, Google may have deindexed or penalized sites that have links to you that you didn't request or build yourself.  We did some backlinking activities and saw Panda 3.3 take the site lower than right before the backlinking kicked in.  But this was a site that although we didn't so any SEO type backlinking activities for it before 6 months ago, the site had been around for over 12 years and built up quite a few 'natural' backlinks.  Some of those 'natural' backlinks Google flagged and so we lost juice from those too.  We initially thought Google was now passing negative link juice from the 'artificial' backlinks, but there is no data whatsoever to prove this.  It is all conjecture and rumor. To be honest, I would LOVE to proven wrong.  It someone could provide clear, real, honest data to prove you can take a site lower in the SERPS but adding backlinks to them on certain sites, then I would love to go sabotage all the competition and take legitimately good sites our of the top SERPS.  It would be INSANE for Google to implement an algo that allows this. Anyone can post anything they want on a blog or in a discussion forum and post it under any name they choose.  There is a tone of misinformation on the Internet.  This rumor you can get 'penalized' for certain backlinks is just one of many.  You may see responses claiming otherwise but you will see they will lack any proof.  You'd have to run a public experiment on a few sites for everyone to watch.  Let everyone see their rank to begin with and barring any algo changes during the process, watch someone add links to BMR or something similar and see if their ranking goes significantly down.  It won't.   The people who think Google is 'penalizing' them have just forgotten that long ago before they built all those artificial backlinks, there site's rank was crap to begin with.  Some people are having a fun time though praying on all the paranoid, frustrate, upset people by pretending to be Matt Cutts and spreading rumors to scare people.

Matthew Hunt

03/28/2012 02:45 pm

ditto what "Voice of Sanity" said. 

Matthew Hunt

03/28/2012 02:46 pm

 i think you have some very, very good points.  go and look where your site was ranking prior to building crappy links.

Neil Ferree

03/28/2012 03:46 pm

Besides BMR • what other Blog Networks have been noticeably "whacked" by Google? Should we hit the pause button on services like "One Hour Backlinks" to avoid harming our clients link building efforts?

Voice of Sanity

03/28/2012 03:51 pm

You didn't get the gist of my comment.  You can't hurt yourself with backlinks.  I'm just so flabbergasted how many people actually believe there is such a thing as negative link juice.  The only reason to hit pause would be if you have determined that the service isn't helping your rank as then it would be a waste of time/money.

Stephen Merrigan

03/28/2012 04:14 pm

"However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site's ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:-Links intended to manipulate PageRank-Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web-Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging ("Link to me and I'll link to you.")-Buying or selling links that pass PageRank" Link Schemes. Retreieved from March 28 2012. Cheers, Stephen Merrigan

Stephen Merrigan

03/28/2012 04:15 pm


Paul Gailey

03/28/2012 07:40 pm

why don't you delete the fake Matt Cutts spam Barry?

Barry Schwartz

03/28/2012 09:31 pm

I am.  There was an issue with Disqus and moderating comments over the past 2-3 days.  It was just resolved a few hours ago.  Deletes should go through. 

Bill Sebald

03/28/2012 10:00 pm

The networks that got pages deindexed was probably due to a mix of the footprint they left (manual detective work) and just the kind of thin inventory they had (algo traced).  BMR is getting this attention because they were semi-transparent in the end, and are shutting down.  These networks aren't new and won't go away.  There's no doubt in my mind Google knows all about the majority of different blog link networks - they just have been focused on other things until now. As far as if they can hurt a competitor, absolutely!  But few are brave enough to cram hundreds of competitor links (and dollars) through this tool, and sit there while their rankings went up for years, just to hope Google gets around to torching them.  I don't think it's something to worry to much about, and I'm still saying that despite how much link spam is still out there (known and untraceable).

Jayden Smith

03/29/2012 03:50 am

What's your website? I'll destroy the rankings.

gifts for boys

03/29/2012 06:48 pm

The only purpose to hit stop would be if you have established that the assistance isn't assisting your position as then it would be a spend of time/money. 


04/02/2012 01:06 am

Competitors can do anything. My comps disappeared from the serps after google 3.4 with only 300 bmr homepage posts i made. It costs me $500 and now it's making me $10,000 now they are gone so it's worth it. It's called - competitive strategy. Can google keep tabs? No they cannot and yes, you can hurt your competitors real bad if you want it.


04/02/2012 01:25 am

 cut the crap man. You seriously overvalue google's ability to sift from good and bad. If the bulk of your links come from bad neighborhood, your website is penalized and that's it. Negative link or not, i don't know but i know for a fact that Google has no way to tell unless you're a national brand. Try building massive spam links and then slowly linking your websites from porn/warez and a few pages that had DMCA requests and see what happens before you open your mouth!


04/07/2012 07:28 am

 I  totally agree with Torval223 there is VERY strong evidence to suggest Google penalises sites with a bad backlink profile. AND it's getting worse. These latest Google updates have wiped some sites off the SERPs. I have a site that ranked number 1 for a competitive keyword for 1 year that has COMPLETELY disappeared from the SERPs  that has a diverse backlink profile  AND I am not alone. This is quite clearly a penalty! - Losing a small percentage of link juice from blog network posts would only have knocked my site further down page 1 or maybe even to page 2 because it has a strong backlink profile from solid white hat links. I would also like to say to Voice of Sanity - stop being so arrogant! No-one knows what Google does or doesn't do except Google. Get off your high-horse man and check in with reality. Your attitude in no way contributes to this discussion!


04/14/2012 04:16 pm

totally agree.  I have a SEO firm pissed off at me because they scammed me  4000.00 and I called them to ask what was going on.  They are located in Montreal btw.  So they said to take a hike or they would bury me in google rankings.  Didn't think it was possible.  But I went from the top ten in many keywords and now I don't even rank in the top 150 for those key words.  I changed nothing.  Anyone know what I can do?


04/15/2012 02:40 pm

im just feed up with google algo. 

Glen Woodfin

04/16/2012 12:22 am

This is short sited on Google's part as one can easily get their competitors deindexed by linking to them. It's clear that Google signed up as member of these paid blog networks to learn the footprint then started deindexing and penalizing sites manually, the crossed their fingers hoping that the news would spread and seos would stop using blog networks for link building making this an ephemeral attack. It's hypcritical for Google, because the only paid network they want to exist is their Google AdWords pay per click network. That's monopolistic abuse.


04/23/2012 09:03 pm

It's not fair. People who work hard on their sites and blogs shouldn't have to worry about competitors creating bad links to their sites. Hopefully Google can do something about that soon. 


04/25/2012 12:59 am

not fair. I don't know if you are familiar with the negative seo sites. Negative seo site caters services to those who wants to bring down their competitors. Not fair.


05/15/2012 08:47 am

Do not HARM - Google hates competition :-)


07/28/2012 07:14 am

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08/25/2012 04:20 pm

They will waste time if they did that but there is really a possibilities that they can use that to harm their competitors. By that time come, they can get opportunity to take the lead.

Sabrina Sabino

01/06/2013 04:39 am

I completely agree with you. It's ridiculous. I believe the flaw is in THEIR algorithm, so you can't really blame the SEOs for figuring it out. But they do. It's unfortunate that the guys with the biggest marketing budget gets to be on top of the SERPs. How can small businesses compete with that?

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